As a Fellows in Training (FIT) representative, I was honored to be one of the 450 American College of Cardiology members to attend the 21st Annual ACC Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. This year, an unprecedented, 70 FITs attended the conference.
The event began with educational sessions discussing how the proposed health care policies will have a detrimental effect on the quality of cardiovascular disease care, physician autonomy, reimbursement, and the future of medicine in America. Then, expert lobbyists and ACC advocacy committee members reviewed the specific message and issues we were to discuss with our respective representatives in the U.S. House and Senate. Between sessions, FITs had the opportunity to meet with one another, interact with ACC council leaders, and network with the cardiovascular thought leaders from across the country. The final day of the conference was spent at the Capitol building where, in private sessions, we conveyed the ACC’s strong message advocating for meaningful and sustainable health care reform.
The ACC advocates for a restructured health care program that emphasizes and rewards physicians who provide high-quality, cost-effective, and evidence-based medicine to their patients. Payment model reform incorporating a quality improvement initiative (similar to the ACC’s appropriate use criteria) was presented to Congress as a model for future, sustainable health care payment programs that rewarded quality and not volume of patient care. The ACC also identified Medicare sequestration, the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), Multiple Procedure Payment Reduction (MPPR), medical liability reform, and spending cuts to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) as the priorities for the 2012 Legislative Meeting.
FITs were well adept to communicate how the proposed spending cuts to the ACGME will dramatically impact the future of American medicine. In addition to the proposed cuts reducing the number of training positions, programs will also be compensated less for teaching and mentoring, threatening the quality of education to our future physicians. In the context of a pre-existing shortage of well-trained cardiologists, these proposed cuts will be detrimental to the future of cardiovascular care in America. Our message to Congress of implementing cost-effective health care reform through the utilization of physician accountability and appropriate use criteria was well received.
As trainees, our time outside of patient care is limited. A short week away from the bedside, in an environment where decisions are based on the messages of others, I appreciate the impact physicians may have on patients’ lives outside of the hospital. As our health care system evolves at this time of significant reform, we as practitioners and future cardiologists must actively advocate for a meaningful and sustainable health care reform in order to protect the future quality of our patients’ care.